Mandating men: Understanding masculinities and engaging men for gender equality and peacebuilding in Myanmar

This policy brief argues that understanding masculinities is important, because these masculinity norms – these social expectations – can be mobilised to manipulate the taking of violent actions. It also argues that conflict analyses and interventions that overlook this gender dimension are incomplete, and risk missing important entry points for peace. It provides practical recommendations to government, Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs) and civil society organisations supporting peace and security processes in Myanmar.

There is increasing awareness that gender is important in understanding conflict and working towards peace and social cohesion. A growing number of development programmes are dedicated to addressing this. In practice, such programmes have largely focused on women’s participation in political and peacebuilding processes.

This focus on increasing women’s meaningful participation in arenas and activities formerly dominated by men is an essential aspect of peacebuilding. However, there is another ‘side’ to the gender inequality dilemma, which is less well understood – one that deals with the experiences of men and boys.

The findings and recommendations outlined in this policy brief, based on two research reports, show that social expectations around masculinity are often overlooked (or oversimplified). Masculinities, that is, the social expectations of men to act or behave in certain ways because they are men, can be drivers of conflict or violence. However, limiting work on this to ‘men-engage’-type approaches focusing mainly on mobilising men to prevent sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) can mean overlooking how social expectations of masculinities can also lead to increased vulnerability for men and boys, especially related to violence. To date, this has often not been recognised or addressed by peacebuilding programming.

Importantly, examining masculinities should not detract from seeking to understand and respond to women’s needs – they are complementary and a comprehensive approach to gender should take both into account.

Related publications

The findings and recommendations outlined in this policy brief are based on the following research reports:

Behind the masks: Masculinities, gender, peace and security in Myanmar

Pulling the strings: Masculinities, gender and social conflict in Myanmar